On November 13, 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington, DC. The simple V-shaped black-granite wall is inscribed with the names of the 57,939 Americans who died in the conflict. Notably, the names are arranged in order of death, not rank, as was common in other memorials.
Funding for the Memorial came entirely from The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund which raised nearly $9 Million through private contributions from corporations, foundations, unions, veterans and civic organizations and more than 275,000 individual Americans. No Federal funds were used.
Maya Lin, a Yale University architecture student designed the memorial after winning a nationwide design competition.
There was initial opposition to Lin’s winning design, but public opinion shifted soon after after the memorial’s dedication. Veterans and families of those who died walked the black reflective wall, seeking the names of their loved ones killed in the conflict. Once the name was located, visitors often made an etching or left a private offering, from notes and flowers to dog tags and cans of beer.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial has become one of the most visited memorials in Washington DC. A Smithsonian Institution director called it “a community of feelings, almost a sacred precinct,” and a veteran declared that “it’s the parade we never got.”
“The Wall,” as it is popularly known, has served to promote national healing after the divisive conflict’s end.